Fantasy Mailbag: Samsonov vs Shesterkin, Kravtsov vs Mittelstadt, Deadline Buying, & Waiting on Larkin

Rick Roos


The fantasy hockey season might be winding down, but the mailbag is as important as ever, whether to tackle questions about how to approach the last month of the 2019-20 regular season or ones looking ahead to the Stanley Cup playoffs, the summer or even the 2020-21 campaign and beyond. As usual, this column aims to provide thorough answers to your inquiries while also dispensing advice that should be useful to poolies even if they don't own the specific players being discussed.

If you want your fantasy hockey question answered in the next mailbag be sure to check out the end of the column, where I explain the ways to get it to me. The earlier you send a question the more likely it is to be included, and the deeper dive I can provide with my reply.


Question #1 (from Stewart)

Which goalie will have sooner/better value in a keeper league: Ilya Samsonov or Igor Shesterkin?


If it's sooner you're focused on, I'd go with Samsonov, as in all likelihood he'll be the #1 goalie in Washington for 2020-21, with Braden Holtby, set to depart as a UFA. Yes, there's still a chance that Holtby re-signs; but I'd guess that between Holtby's desire to get paid and Washington's not to have a 1A/1B situation, we will see Holtby elsewhere next season and Samsonov as "the guy" for the Caps.


In contrast, Shesterkin is set to be one of three netminders under contract for the Rangers for 2020-21. Even if Henrik Lundqvist retires or gets bought out, that still leaves Alexander Georgiev. And although Georgiev has long been rumored as a likely expansion target for the Seattle team, that's not happening until the 2021 offseason. As such, of the two Samsonov should pay more immediate dividends.


What about longer-term? Shesrterkin's stats have been so superb at all levels, it's difficult to imagine him not also becoming a dominant NHL goalie. Also, the Rangers have gone from doormat to team on the rise in short order. As such, the squad in front of him should be in the playoff picture next season, with a very bright future given its core of players in or entering their prime.


As for Samsonov, he was a top KHL goalie too and is only 22 (versus 24 for Shesterkin); however, he had a rather poor season in the AHL in 2018-19, meaning his success might be more tied to the team in front of him than Shesterkin. He's also done worse as the season has unfolded, allowing 3+ goals in four of his six starts since January 31st and having ceded the net back to Braden Holtby, who's started seven of the last nine Caps games.  Moreover, half of Samsonov's starts have come against teams outside the playoff picture and/or in the bottom half of the league in terms of goals scored. There's also the fact that Washington's core is ageing, and, while it might indeed be Samsonov who can help a fantasy team more next season, I like Shesterkin as the better of the two when it comes to 2021-22 and beyond.


Question #2 (from Spencer)

I have a keeper dilemma in my league (12 teams; 22 player rosters; Categories: G, A, +/-, PPP, GWG, HIT, BLK, DEF, W, SV%, SV, and SO). We’re allowed only two keepers, which are each kept in the round which they were drafted. My options are Mika Zibanejad (9th round), Darcy Kuemper (12th), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (13th), and Tyler Bertuzzi (16th). Goalies seem to fly off the board in the early rounds of my league’s draft, so I really like Kuemper. But my second keeper is my conundrum. RNH looks like he's found a permanent place alongside Leon Draisaitl and on PP1, while if Anthony Mantha and Dylan Larkin can stay healthy I think Bertuzzi can do great things, and then there's Zibanejad who's just a solid stand-alone player. Which two are you keeping?


First off, I think Zibanejad is a slam-dunk. Yes, he's a bit old for a having full-fledged breakout; however, his story checks out. Tons of SOG yet a shooting percentage not too far above his career norm, plus his IPP is set to climb for the third season in a row. Moreover, his offensive zone starting percentage is only 47% and should rise as the Rangers become an even better team. He also gets oodles of PP time, and his secondary assists percentage is below 20% despite the fact he's a center. He's fully arrived and his downside for the immediate future is 90+ points per season. He's a must keep in that round.


For your second keeper, are you sure you want Kuemper? The concern is your league counts not only SV% but also saves and wins, so you want guys who log 55+ starts, and Kuemper likely won't get that until/unless Antti Raanta is removed from the equation. Yes, you said that goalies get snagged early in your league; however, you were able to get Kuemper, who had a solid 2018-19, in the 12th round, so clearly there is value to be found beyond just the early goalie grabs, especially nowadays when there are precious few true "stud" goalies. Also, with only 24 players being kept, I'd think at most ten netminders would be among them, perhaps even fewer if teams have skater options which are too good to toss back. To me, that, plus skater categories outnumbering goalie categories two to one, gives you all the more reason to give Kuemper a ticket back into the draft pool.


So if not Kuemper, then who? Although Bertuzzi will almost assuredly be drafted earlier than the 16th round, I think RNH in the 13th is a far better value. Not only is Bertuzzi more of a complementary player, but Detroit could be trying to mold itself into more of a defense-focused team, in which case even the top line might see its production slow. Between that and how poorly the team performed this season, I can't see keeping Bertuzzi given RNH is an option only three rounds earlier. As for RNH, he's a staple on the Oilers' PP1 and once he found a permanent home alongside Leon Draisaitl has looked superb. In fact, since December 31st he's been playing at better than a 100 point pace. And with Edmonton eager to have a more balanced attack I'd bank on RNH staying glued to Draisaitl next season, providing you with enough reason to keep him over Kuemper or Bertuzzi.


Question #3 (from Martin)

I'm in a 14 Team dynasty league where each team has 17 active players at any given time and the categories are (G, A, PIM, SOG, PPP, SHP, Hit, Blk, FO%, GWG+ShGWG, W, L, SV, SV%, SHO). Each team also gets to stash up to 15 players in the minors.

My current roster is:

C – Nathan MacKinnon, Tyler Seguin (RW), Patrice Bergeron, Evgeni Kuznetsov
LW – Johnny Gaudreau, Anders Lee, Max Domi (LW), Antoine Roussel, Victor Olofsson (RW)
RW – Patrick Kane, Tom Wilson, Evgeni Dadonov (LW), Matthew Tkachuk (LW)
D – Victor Hedman, John Carlson, Drew Doughty, Jared Spurgeon, Kevin Shattenkirk, Samuel Girard
G – Andrei Vasilevskiy, Semyon Varlamov, Thomas Greiss

Players I have in the Minors are – Filip Hallander, Pierre Engwall, Grigori Denisenko, Janne Kuokkanen, Conor Garland, Serron Noel, Alex Barre-Boulet, John Marino, Collin Delia, Josef Korenar, Daniil Tarasov, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Adam Werner, Justus Annunen

We have a three round draft every year. I have a 2nd round pick and three 3rd round picks for 2020, and I have a my 1st, 2nd and 3rd round picks in 2021.

I have always made the playoffs but never won my pool (lost in the final twice). I am good in offensive categories and goaltending but am faring poorly in “grinder” stats. I feel like my contending window may be closing as my team gets older. How would you try to improve my team, which as of when I sent you this question sits 5th in my league? Or is the answer a soft rebuild? I am torn, because I feel my team can contend, but there are 3-4 teams who probably are better, on paper, than mine.

I'm surprised you sit only the fifth in your league, although I can see how you're lacking somewhat in PIM, HIT and BLK. First off, I don't think this is a team for which you should hit the reset button. To the extent you have older veterans, they seem like the types who can remain productive for at least a few more seasons. So I'd say you want to keep your core largely intact.


What I would do though, is sell high on some players, starting with Carlson. His value is just too high not to try and capitalize upon it. I might package him and both your Islanders netminders to try and land a second top netminder, like a Connor Hellebuyck, Ben Bishop, or Frederik Andersen, who play well and/or play a lot. Or you can see about trying to get a multi-cat beast like Brady Tkachuk, who could help you in the banger categories while still giving you some points. Or you could try to land Andrei Svechnikov, who is poised to be a high volume scorer, shooter and hitter for the next decade.


Another guy I might look into trading is Bergeron, as although he has the talent to continue to play at a high level, he simply cannot seem to stay healthy for a full season anymore, likely due to him soldiering through so many injuries for so many years. But he's a big name on a big line and thus should be able to help you land a younger, multi-cat contributing center, like maybe a J.T. Miller, who's a pretty good stat stuffer and very good scorer without as much mileage as, or the extensive injury history of, Bergeron.


I think if you do those deals you get better, especially the long term but also for the here and now. Plus, you have minors guys like Conor Garland and John Marino who could contribute as early as next season, as well as some longer-term projects who should be poised to take the place of your older players in 3-5 seasons. Good luck!


Question #4 (from Greg)

14-team H2H keeper league (8 Keepers); G – A – PPP – SOG – HIT – PIM – BLK – W – SV% – GAA – SHO 

F: Claude Giroux, Brad Marchand, Mark Stone, Jonathan Huberdeau, Bo Horvat, Sam Reinhart, Mike Hoffman, Patric Hornqvist, Bryan Rust, Philip Danault, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Tomas Hertl (IR)
D: Kris Letang, Rasmus Ristolainen, Shea Theodore, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Adam Fox
G: Matt Murray, Petr Mrazek, James Reimer


As I write to you, I’m in a fairly comfortable playoff position (5th of 8) but my netminder situation has me concerned. I’ve done some streaming on the wire throughout the season, but lately, the options are thin (Cam Talbot, Curtis McElhinney, Juuse Saros, Brian Elliott, Cal Petersen, Jack Campbell, Henrik Lundqvist, Alexander Georgiev). Potential trade targets from non-playoff teams include David Rittich, Aaron Dell, Alex Stalock, Devan Dubnyk, Mikko Koskinen, and Jake Allen. I have 1st and 3rd round picks to dangle as trade bait.


Would you pursue any of those guys, or roll with what I have and keep with the streaming tactic the rest of the way?


This question came in before the Carolina netminder injuries; however, even if those two were both healthy I could not see a path for your team to win your league given the status of your goaltending. Even before the Carolina netminders got hurt, the three goalies you had were average to below average, and the streaming and trading options available to you were not going to put you in a strong enough position to win this league, in which goalie categories comprise four of the eleven categories.


What should you do? I'd write off this season (easier to do now given what's happened to the Hurricane netminders) and focus on the eight players you'll be keeping, which I see as Giroux, Stone, Huberdeau, Ristolainen, and Letang, plus either Theodore or Fox (Theodore is the safer pick, Fox is the risk/reward selection) and either Horvat or Reinhart (Reinhart is likely going to tally more points, but Horvat keeps getting better and contributes more in some of your other categories). What about the eighth keeper? I'd trade Marchand during the offseason but before keepers are due. He's elite but should start slowing down before too long. Try to leverage him and Murray to get a top netminder, whom you keep with the other seven and look ahead to 2019-20 when you will have had a chance to draft the rest of your squad and hopefully be in better shape to compete for the long haul. Good luck!


Question #5 (from Michael)

20 team dynasty; G, A, PPPts, Hits, Blocks, Shots; W, GAA SV%


Active Roster:

F = Andrei Svechnikov, Kaapo Kakko, Rocco Grimaldi, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Miles Wood, Blake Coleman, Frank Vatrano, Nikolaj Ehlers, Cedric Paquette, Adam Gaudette

D = Mike Reilly, Nikita Zaitsev, Adam Fox, Brendan Dillon, Michael Matheson

G = Sergei Bobrovsky

Utility = Chytill


Bench = F (Peyton Krebs, Vasili Podkolzin, Owen Tippett, Kole Lind, Carter Verhaeghe, Vitali Kravtsov); D (Timothy Liljegren, Kevan Miller, Moritz Seider, Carson Soucy)


IR – Erik Karlsson, Julius Honka, Andreas Johnsson, Brock Boeser, Nick Bjugstad


Minors/farm Lucas Raymond, Noel Gunler, Mike Stutzel, Alexey Marchenko, Lukas Dostal, Isaiah Saville, Colton Point, Olof Lindbom, Josef Korenar, Dylan Samberg, Lucas Elevens, Philipp Kurashev, Jett Woo


I was wondering if you could offer any help or comments regarding this team, in particular how to proceed for next season. Specifically, what should I do about Bob? Do I try to trade him? If so, what can I expect in return?


This is an interesting league in that goalie stats comprise more than a third of your categories (three of eight), yet apparently, each team starts just one netminder, versus 15 skaters. As such, I can see why you have concerns about what the future might hold for Bob. Here's what we know; barring spectacular play over the last month of the season Bobrovsky's GAA will have risen and his SV% will have dropped for the third straight season. That indeed sounds alarming; however, let's not forget the same thing happened to him from 2012-13 to 2015-16, and then he put up Vezina numbers in 2016-17. Does he have another rebound season in him, when he'll be 32 before the puck drops on 2020-21?


Let's look at other netminders who, at age 31 or older, started 50+ games and had a GAA over 3.00 and an SV% of .900 or less. Since 2000-01 only two goalies met all four criteria – Vesa Toskala in 2008-09 and Craig Anderson in 2017-18. Needless to say, this is not fine company in which to find one's goalie. As great as Bob might have been, and even though he bounced back once previously after declining stats over several seasons, it indeed could be his best days are behind him, this time for good.


But what do you do if you have Bob? You could try to trade him, leveraging the fact that he rebounded in the past under similar circumstances; however, his value is likely so low that you'd not be able to get a decent netminder in return unless you threw in a sweetener, such as a highly-touted prospect or a player like Adam Fox, who likely will be a great rearguard in the future but whose output should be limited in the near term by the presence of Tony DeAngelo. But I think you should try to rid yourself of Bob unless you can't get even a halfway decent deal for him, in which case you'd want to hold onto him and hope somehow he defies the odds and rebounds at least somewhat.


Regarding your team as a whole, I think your prospects are decent but not spectacular; and in a league where 320 players are on active rosters, you seem to have a few too much middle to lower-tier talent among your forwards and defensemen. My take is you should look to trade solid but not spectacular players over age 25 (e.g., Pageau and Coleman, capitalizing on them being on new teams) along with one or two of your prospects to try and land some more talented guys who are already in or close to being in the NHL, with the hope of contending in 2-3+ years. Good luck!


Question #6 (from Greg)

I am in a long-established keeper league. Several months ago I made a trade for Casey Mittelstadt and Vitaly Kravtsov. Shortly thereafter Mittlelstadt was relegated to the AHL; and although Kravtsov returned from Russia, he too is still in AHL. Moreover, neither is producing in terms of goals and assists, which are all we measure in our pool. Should I be worried, or are these just growing pains?


Full disclosure – I'm far from an expert when it comes to prospects. I will say, however, that AHL stats are tricky in that plenty of players have lit it up while playing in the AHL, only to be outclassed upon being plopped into the NHL, and as many, if not more, have had successful NHL careers despite not shining in the AHL. How is that possible? In some cases even very talented skaters "play down" to the level of those around them, whereas in others instances the team's mission for them in the AHL is to ready them for the NHL and in turn, the focus is on parts of their game which don't directly translate to the high scoring we'd come to expect from them given their status as elite prospects.


So yes, neither one is finding success in the AHL, although for what it's worth Mittelstadt has been much better of late (eight points in 11 February games). But it could be a case of a learning curve, honing their overall game, or simply due to them being just 21 (Mittelstadt) and 20 (Kravtsov) years old. I think it's far too early to write off either one based on subpar AHL outputs.


There's another key factor in assessing their futures, and that's an opportunity. Mittelstadt is a natural center on a team, which, other than Jack Eichel, has little in the way of talent at that position. As such, Mittelstadt likely will be given every opportunity to succeed for years to come. What's more – the Sabres are not a big market team with a fan base that expects a deep playoff run each season, making it so there will be less immediate pressure on Mittelstadt when he is back with the big club. 

It's of course not ideal that Mittelstadt will never displace Eichel as Buffalo's #1 center; but we know from Pittsburgh, Washington, Edmonton, Tampa Bay, and Toronto that a squad can have two elite centers. Eichel's excellence may serve to help Mittelstadt by drawing the attention of top shut down personnel from other teams, making it easier on Mittelstadt and his line. Long story short, be patient with Mittelstadt and chances are your patience will be rewarded.


Kravtsov, on the other hand, is a winger and the Rangers are a team that is deep at that position. The good news is Kravtsov's game is not one that would lend itself to him playing in a bottom-six role, so there's little risk to him being buried there.


One might think that a spot could open up if UFA to be Jesper Fast doesn't re-sign; however, chances are that gig would likely be earmarked for Kaapo Kakko, with Kravtsov perhaps ticketed for another season in the AHL. One key is Kravtsov's ELC expires in 2022, so by then, the picture should be clearer, especially with Ryan Strome set to be an RFA the previous summer. The issue is that with a lot of New York's other top-six signed for years to come, Kravtsov likely would have to outplay one of Kakko or Pavel Buchnevich to nail down a spot in the top six, unless of course Strome isn't re-signed, although with the way he's been playing chances are the Rangers will want to keep him. But by no later than 2022, I see Kravtsov getting his chance at the NHL level, be it with the Rangers or with another team if, for example, New York needs to make a trade to better the team for a 2021 or 2022 playoff run. So although Kravtsov's opportunity is less clear, he too still stands a good chance to make an NHL mark and I'd preach patience with him as well, but perhaps a bit more/longer patience than with Mittelstadt.


Question #7 (from David)

I'm in an 18 team, keep 5 league with the following as categories: Skaters: G (1pt), A (1), GWG (1), SHG (1), PPG (1); Goalies: W (2), Losses (-1pt), Shootout (5pt).

This is my roster, along with how many are started at each position:


C (start 3): Tyler Seguin, Dylan Larkin, Anthony Cirelli, Vincent Trocheck, Anze Kopitar
W (start 5): Kyle Connor, Timo Meier, Jakub Vrana, Brandon Saad, Jake Guentzel, Nino Niederreiter, Tyler Bertuzzi
D (start 4): Adam Fox, Morgan Rielly, Noah Hanifin, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jake Gardiner
G (start 1): Ben Bishop


My big debate going into this offseason is whether to keep Larkin. I gave up a lot to get him via trade, but both he and Detroit as a team concern me, plus I think I might have better options. For what it's worth, last year I kept Mark Stone (since traded for Jake Guentzel), Seguin, Meier, Rielly, and Connor. Do I go with the same group?


Let's start with the easy one – Rielly is still a keeper. Yes, after Mike Babcock was fired Tyson Barrie began being leaned on quite heavily even before Rielly got hurt; however, Barrie is an impending UFA and will command a price tag that Toronto will not be able to pay. That means I'd bank on poolies seeing more of the 2018-19 version of Rielly in 2020-21 than what we saw from him after the first quarter of this season. Plus, you have no better option among your blueliners, so he's one of the five you should keep.


Normally I'd think you'd want to keep Bishop; however, you were able to draft him even after he had a stellar 2018-19, so chances are not many goalies are kept. Plus, in this day and age there are few truly elite goalies, so opting not to keep one under your circumstances is probably the right move.


I'm also keeping Guentzel and Connor because they are both already elite and might even get better. Also, your league categories favor goal scorers, and they're both cut from that cloth.


So that's three of five. What about Seguin, Meier and Larkin? Which two should be kept?


Although Seguin is having a down year, he still is a bit young for his production to wane this much. I sense a rebound. Moreover, he's a center who scores goals, which are so valuable in your league. In fact, going back to 2014-15, and including stats from this season, Seguin has potted the third most goals among all centers. He should be your fourth keep.


As for Meier, until this season he looked like he was going to develop into a high volume shooter and elite goal scorer. But even more so than Seguin, Meier has underperformed this season; and with San Jose poised to be a poor team for the near future, he can't be one of your keeps.


Then there's Larkin, who had a great 2018-19, but, like most Red Wings, has struggled in 2019-20. As talented as Larkin is, he's seemingly not good enough to put an offense on his shoulders. Plus, Detroit might be shifting to a more defensive posture next season, in which case the offense, even that of the top line, might suffer, perhaps more so than it has already.


So for keeper #5, I'm not going with Meier or Larkin, but instead, Vrana, who looks poised to leap into elite territory. First, he needed to get into the top six, and late last season he did so and never looked back. Next, he needed to penetrate PP1, which he's done this season. The last hurdle is ice time, and I think next season is where that comes. Vrana's goals per 60 minutes at 5×5 is second this season only to Dominik Kubalik and ranks in the top five going back to 2014-15. Think of what he'll be able to do once he plays 17 or 18 minutes a game? Beyond all that, 2020-21 will be his "fourth-year" when many a forward tends to truly break out.


So in sum, I'm going with the same keepers as you had last season, except for Guentzel in place of the traded away Stone, and Vrana rather than Meier. If you still believe in Meier and/or Larkin, you can always redraft one or both of them, as their prices are likely to be lower than they should be given how poorly they produced versus lofty expectations.  And if you're not 100% sold on Vrana, keep Bishop.




For those reading this now, it's never too early to start providing me with mailbag questions, which you can do in one of two ways: (1) by emailing them to [email protected] with the words "Roos Mailbag" as the subject line, or (2) by sending them to me via a private message on the DobberHockey Forums, where my username is "rizzeedizzee". Or if you prefer to wait, the time to get me questions is right after each Poll, since the mailbag normally runs the following week.

When sending me your questions, remember to provide as much detail about your league/situation as possible, since as you saw above in a couple of the questions there were some omitted details which made it difficult for me to give a truly proper answer. Examples of the types of things I need to know include what type of league you're in (i.e., limited keeper, dynasty, or one-year; roto vs H2H), does the salary cap matter, how many players are rostered (and of those, how many start at each position), what categories are scored and how are they weighted, plus other details if necessary (such as free agents available if you're thinking of dropping a player or rosters of both teams if you're thinking of making a trade). The key is to tell me enough for me to give you a truly proper answer, and for readers of this column to benefit from the answer/advice I provide. When in doubt, err on the side of inclusion. See you next week for Goldipucks and the Three Skaters!


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